Grenada officials want to discuss smoking ban after voters favored it

Published 9:00 pm Monday, July 21, 2008

The citizens of Grenada in North Mississippi voted nearly two-to-one in favor of a ban on smoking in public places, but for some reason the newly elected city officials want to discuss such a ban’s pros and cons.

Is this just another effort by some officials to get around something that people overwhelmingly favor? I hope not. The vote was non-binding, but I believe it shows Grenada officials a clear path that the voters who elected them want the city to follow.

Nationally, in vote after vote citizens have favored bans on smoking in public places. This should come as no surprise since the latest figures from those folks who keep up with such things show that just about 20 percent of adults now smoke, and the percentage keeps falling.

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Those of us who don’t smoke have gotten very tired of having to put up with the stench of tobacco smoke and its assault on our lungs and health.

Picayune’s mayor and city council continue to ignore the fact that most citizens here don’t smoke either and that most of us would like a ban on smoking in public places. Fortunately, some business owners have taken notice and do not allow smoking in their establishments. Another coffee house in town finally has banned smoking and we non-smokers have one more choice of a place to eat and drink coffee.

I suppose the only way we will have a chance of getting a ban on smoking in public places in Picayune is to completely replace the current mayor and city council we have. No one now serving apparently has the courage even to propose such a ban for this town.

You would think that out of five council members and a mayor someone would at least try to propose such a ban, especially after so many other cities in the state have passed such ordinances, including Hattiesburg, Gulfport and Jackson, three of the state’s largest cities.

Neighboring Louisiana is one of more than 40 states that now have state-wide bans on smoking in public places.

With our tobacco-lobbyist governor, Mississippi may have to wait for a new governor before we can join those ranks. Of course, with our propensity for being last in every thing that is positive, we may be the very last state to institute such a ban.

What would be nice is for the United States to join Ireland in becoming a country to ban smoking in public places. I wish the ban had been in place in Ireland the last time I was there. The pubs were dense with tobacco smoke back then, yet the country, and this had to include the support of a lot of smokers given the amount of smoking there is in Ireland, is now smoke free, at least in public places.

In fact, the Web lists 30 countries, including Australia, Canada, Great Britain and even Cuba, the home of the world’s most famous cigars, where smoking in public places is banned. At least 10 other countries have partial smoking bans.

I think that with medical costs going out of sight, and much of that ill health linked to smoking either directly or through second-hand smoke, the ban on smoking in public places should be universal.

Also, I think the tax on tobacco products should be astronomical as part of a strong effort to prevent those who would consider smoking from taking it up and to persuade those who now smoke to give up the nasty, stinky and deadly habit.

Sure, it’s hard to quit smoking. I should know because I quit smoking about 25 years ago. The point is, I did it in spite of the difficulty and despite how widely the habit of smoking was accepted at that time, even by those who didn’t smoke.

The most militant anti-smoker I knew back in those years, besides my mother, was the old city editor at The Clarion-Ledtger, Charles Smith. He, too, was a former smoker and told me that one day I would quit. He also told me that former smokers, such as he is and I now am, are the most militant opponents to the nasty habit.

He was right, as he often was on so many things. City editors are that way, in spite of themselves. I think the militancy of those of us who have quit smoking has to do with how intimately familiar we are with some of the ill effects of smoking that aren’t mentioned as often as cancer, such as an intermittent cough, susceptibility to bronchitis and other respiratory ills and just a general not quite feeling as good as we think we would feel.

I hope the folks in Grenada tell their elected officials in no uncertain terms that whether the vote on smoking in public places was binding or not that it is binding on those elected officials, if they have any hopes of ever being re-elected.